The sustainability of cashmere has long been a contentious topic. As a sought-after luxury material, cashmere stands out for its soft texture and warmth. However, how sustainable is cashmere? Is it worth the single purchase or should we stand back?
Cashmere is a natural fibre, unlike polyester nylon and other synthetic materials. It comes from the soft under-fleece of goats found in Mongolia, China, Iran, and other countries. While animal-derived products have been used for centuries to create garments and accessories, the ever-growing demand for cashmere presents some justified concerns about its impact on natural habitats and carbon footprint. Management consulting company Bain & Company previously calculated that the cashmere industry produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as 15 million cars annually.
Despite these concerns, hand-cashmere remains a viable future for many communities that rely on it as their main source of income. Balancing economic development with conservation efforts hinders progress towards a more sustainable fashion industry. In this article, we will explore the material cashmere in depth and evaluate whether or not it's bad for the planet.
Uncovering the Challenges: What Hinders Progress?
The main issue hindering progress towards a sustainable cashmere market greatly lies within the fashion industry itself. Cashmere has long been an expensive luxury commodity, but with the rise of fast-fashion brands making it affordable, the demand for mass-produced cashmere has steadily worsened. This increased demand leads to more goats needed to produce cashmere, which ultimately results in eventual degradation of their natural environments.
Decades ago, The New York Times reported on the environmental impact of cashmere production, and since then, things have only gotten worse. Increased grazing due to current demand leads to overgrazing and desertification in already fragile dry lands. Climate change is also an increasing threat making it harder for goats to graze at all as extreme weather becomes more frequent.
According to Olivia Dowie, creative director of sustainable cashmere brand Riley Studio, the biggest issue is that natural habitats are being destroyed in order to keep up with demand for incredibly warm fibers. As such, we must work towards creating a more sustainable cashmere industry that takes into account both animal welfare and environmental concerns.
How Human Activities Affect Our Animal Friends
It's worth knowing that the cashmere industry, primarily centred in Mongolia, has raised ethical questions about how we treat goats. These animals generate the soft wool that's used to create cosy cashmere sweaters, but their welfare is often overlooked in favour of profits. Unfortunately, the problems goats face are numerous and significant.
Goat researchers have shown that these highly expressive creatures experience negative emotions when subjected to mistreatment. They can develop anxiety and depression when kept in cramped conditions or denied access to food and water. On the other hand, goats engage in playful behaviour when feeling pleasure, and they're quite affectionate with their herd mates.
Given what we know about animal sentience, it's a bit cheeky to continue exploiting goats for our fashion needs without considering their well-being. By choosing ethically produced cashmere or opting for alternative fabrics altogether, we can make a difference in the lives of countless animals who suffer under the cashmere industry's profit-driven approach.
A slaughter industry
The cashmere industry has been accused of being a slaughter industry, where cashmere goats suffer painful mutilations and are killed before their natural lifespan of twelve years. Older goats treated in this way do not live out their full lifespan. In Australia, goats that are the wrong colour or whose hair isn't thought to be high quality are often killed fully conscious. However, leading cashmere suppliers in China have shown that laws protecting goats can be put into place, allowing them to live out their natural lifespan.
How humans are changing their environment and themselves
Research shows that the rising demand for cashmere is causing detrimental harm to both the environment and the people involved. Jobs involving slaughtering animals have severe negative mental health outcomes for cashmere herders, something that has been consistently shown. Moreover, the rising climatic temperatures and land degradation directly linked to the cashmere-debt cycle lead to poorer social outcomes such as native species endangerment.
Nomadic herders, who rely on the grasslands to graze their livestock, face a broader struggle as grasslands disappear due to overgrazing caused by cashmere demand. Bishs words reflect that if this demand dies off, it could mean a positive impact for both the land herders live on and the animals they raise. Consumers have shifted towards sustainable ways of living in recent years; thus, economically supporting local communities is essential.
The cashmere industry needs to take into account its detrimental impacts and focus on how it can be more sustainable. It's necessary not only for those who work in it but also for those who rely on their environment for survival. Therefore, a balance must be struck between meeting consumer demands while finding sustainable ways to produce cashmere without harming people or nature's delicate balance.
Is Cashmere Out of Reach?
Cashmere has been a luxury fabric for centuries, but with the issues surrounding sustainability, it begs the question: is cashmere out of reach? While traditional cashmere production is not environmentally friendly, there are sustainable options available. Merino wool is a great alternative as it's renewable and biodegradable.
Recycled cashmere alternatives and vintage options are also becoming more popular as people look to encourage circular fashion and minimise waste. It's important to do brand research before purchasing any cashmere product to make informed choices about its sustainability. The article sign delivers straight to your inbox every week, providing you with all the latest news on sustainable fashion.
The most important thing is to be aware of the impact that our fashion choices have on the environment. Rather than ruling cashmere out completely, we should strive to find sustainable options or choose pieces that will last a lifetime. With more information available on the issues surrounding sustainability in fashion, we can make better choices for ourselves and for the environment.
Unraveling How Our Actions Affect the Environment
When it comes to our clothing choices, we often think about style and comfort rather than their environmental impact. However, the truth is that our actions can have a significant effect on the planet. Take cashmere, for example. Cashmere is a luxurious material made from the hair of cashmere goats. While it may feel lovely against your skin, the agricultural side of cashmere production can be damaging to ecosystems.
Cashmere goats grazing in biodiverse grasslands should be a renewable resource that benefits both people and nature. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are often degraded due to overgrazing by ruminant animals like goats, which burp methane - a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to the climate crisis. According to researchers, cashmere goat grazing is responsible for emitting 472 million metric tons of CO2 every year - equivalent to taking 103 million cars off the road. Notoriously unfussy eaters ripping leaves from trees and shrubs with their sharp hooves also contribute to biodiversity loss by uprooting essential plants.
As grim as this sounds, there is good news too: degraded rangeland has recovered naturally in ten years when left alone in China's Inner Mongolia region. Change existing management practices by allowing grasses time to recover before re-grazing or taking action today such as planting more drought-resistant vegetation with deeper roots contributing organic matter back into the earth underneath where they grow can help make an impact in restoring healthy grassland ecosystems within ten years. By unraveling how our actions affect the environment, we can make informed decisions about what we wear and support sustainable practices that benefit both people and planet alike.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is Cashmere made?
Cashmere is made from the soft undercoat of cashmere goats, which is collected by combing or shearing. The fibers are then washed, sorted, and spun into yarn to create luxurious garments and accessories known for their warmth and softness.
Where does Cashmere come from?
Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of cashmere goats, which are primarily raised in regions such as Mongolia, China, and Iran.
What if consumers shifted away from cashmere?
If consumers shifted away from cashmere, it would likely have a negative impact on the cashmere industry and those who rely on it for their livelihoods. However, there are many factors that influence consumer preferences and trends, so it is difficult to predict with certainty what the future of the cashmere market will look like.
Is Cashmere biodegradable?
Cashmere is a natural fiber that is biodegradable and can decompose over time without leaving harmful waste behind. This makes it an environmentally friendly choice for clothing and accessories.
Is Cashmere expensive?
Yes, cashmere is considered expensive due to its rarity, luxurious softness, and high demand in the fashion industry. However, it is an investment piece that will last for years if cared for properly.